After a solid campaign on the pitch in 2008, Marietta High's boys' soccer team could be even better this upcoming season.
The Tiger booters, a sectional champion with a 10-6-4 overall record last year, traveled and competed in a preseason tournament at Cooper Park in Westerville (the home of Otterbein College, near Columbus) July 18-19. There, The orange and black went unbeaten in four matches with a 3-1 triumph over Hamilton Township, a 2-0 blanking of Canal Winchester, and a 1-0 win over Dublin Jerome.
MHS also tied Lexington 2-2.
"A successful weekend," said second-year Marietta head coach Todd Morris," the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League (SEOAL) Coach of the Year in 2008.
"This was the first time the group has played together as a unit since the penalty-kick loss to Athens in the district championship game last October."
Back then, Marietta's never-say-die 2008 team had to rally on a goal by Colten Holdren, off a Chuck Vaughan corner kick, in the 78th minute of the second half to tie Athens 1-1. After two scoreless overtime periods, the match went into a PK shootout, and the Tigers came up short dropping a 2-1 decision on a sudden death penalty kick, or by virtue of a 4-3 margin in PKs.
Despite that heartbreaking outcome, it was a a very satisfying fall. In postseason play, Marietta rallied to edge Waverly, 4-3, to claim the sectional crown. The Tigers then earned a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Chillicothe in a district semifinal at Lucasville Valley High.
From that orange and black team, MHS graduated midfielder Kyle Gray, the SEOAL Player of the Year. The Tigers will also miss Josh Archer, Lance Dunbarger, Augusto Gavioli and Vaughan.
Marietta, however, could be re-loading when it steps on the pitch Aug. 10, the team's first official day of practice at the Marietta Soccer Complex in Devola.
The returnees include the Tigers' top-two leading scorers - Zach Hill (14 goals) and Keith Schwendeman (12) - and goal-keeper Chris Stollar. All three of these players were All-SEOAL honorees last season.
At the tournament in Westerville, Schwendeman scored three goals as did Wes Riley. Derek Johnson and Matt Morrison had one apiece.
In the tourney, Stollar played the majority of the time as keeper, but sophomore Jacob Hupp also saw action between the pipes.
Keeping active on the pitch this summer, Morrison, Hill, Schwendeman, and Stollar played for the U-17 River Valley Soccer Club (RVSC), which was coached by former MHS soccer standout Stephen Rose, now an assistant at Marietta College. The Rapids won the state cup in its age division in Beckley, W.Va., but struggled and went scoreless in the U.S. Youth Soccer Association Region 1 tournament at Barboursville (W.Va.) City Park.
Also making the trip to Westerville were Shawn O'Connor (jr), Nate Hupp (sr), Jacob Hupp (so), Steven Stollar (so), Colin Jordan (fr), Brandon Hugh (fr), Hayden Weihl (jr), Holden Weihl (fr), Logan Downer (sr), Jake Archer (jr), Ethan Bloomingdale (fr), Tim Grosel (so), Dylan Schafer (jr), and Holdren (jr).
"I saw some good things to build on, and also areas that we will need to focus on as we prepare for the upcoming season," Morris said.
Could be a memorable fall for Marietta High boys' soccer in 2009.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441 or at firstname.lastname@example.org